|Swimmer Nguyen Huy Hoang is the first Vietnamese athlete to win a ticket to the country's 2020 Tokyo Olympics team. (Photo: VNA) |
“This is the first Olympics of my career!” the athlete, born in 2000, said in a rare talk to the press. “After smashing the 2019 SEA Games record in the Philippines, I increased my training to 20km a day with the ultimate goal of earning a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. So you can imagine how much I was disappointed at the announcement that the Games were postponed until 2021.”
However, the ambitious athlete showed understanding to the decision, calling it “right” and “for the people’s health”.
“The Olympics are a great event, but they are only delayed - not cancelled. I’m still young, so opportunities are still ahead. It might even be good for me, as I will have another year to train and improve.”
Keep dreaming, keep training
"I first wanted to compete at the Games when my older teammate Nguyen Thi Anh Vien swam at the 2016 Rio Olympics,” Hoang went on. “So I was very happy to hear that I had reached the A standard for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This is what athletes around the world hope for.”
To make a splash at the Olympics and the 31st SEA Games, he has been following a strict daily training schedule from 7am to 10am and 1pm to 4.30pm.
Though the two events are scheduled to take place in the same year, Hoang said he wasn’t overly concerned because the more he tries, the stronger he will become.
“For me, the busy schedule is not an obstacle. Quite the opposite - it will actually help me train better and go the extra mile.”
He doesn’t believe in fate, and never believes he was born to shine like his name - Huy Hoang (Glory).
“I think success comes from perseverance and hard work,” he said. “I personally have no secret other than training every single day.
“I know I don’t have any physical advantage, so I always tell myself to redouble my efforts and overcome any weaknesses.
“I believe that if I have done my best but the outcome is not what’s expected then I should not lose heart. Failure is not the opposite of success. It’s just part of success.
“Keep training, and the hard work will pay off.”
Loneliness vs Glory
|Hoang says he has no secret other than training every single day. (Photo: VNA) |
"Swimming is very lonely,” Hoang explained. “Unlike sports on land, there is only you in the water, swimming up and down the lane.”
Even on land, he is able to visit home only once a year, as a large portion of his time is spent on training.
“I’ve chosen this path, however, so I spare no efforts in reaching further and higher.”
However, the athlete said swimming was actually not his childhood dream. “I never really thought I would become a swimmer. Everything that has happened so far is beyond my expectations.”
He has been living far from home since he was in Grade 6, training as an elite athlete.
“At that time, I just thought swimming was good for my health. I was too young to envisage any future career.”
Along his journey to becoming a professional swimmer, Hoang has encountered tremendous difficulties.
“Learning to swim at this level is difficult, but improving is even more challenging,” he said, adding that a swimming career requires a lot of patience and persistence, and any glory today is a result of constant effort yesterday.
“In my mind, I always think that I have to work harder and harder to achieve more.”
Recalling his most unforgettable memory, when he first swam in a regional tournament at the age of 12, Hoang said he was quite shocked and a little dazed because most of his rivals were much bigger than he was.
“At that time, though, I was too young to dwell on it,” he recalled. “I just thought about how they could swim so incredibly fast. And when the time came, I just dived into the pool and swam.”
Hoang conceded that as he grew older, he felt some fear at the Southeast Asia Age Group Swimming Championships in 2015 and the Southeast Asian Games in 2017.
“I really was nervous at major events like these, because I had to swim against strong opponents. But when I began competing, I somehow managed to turn my fear into a strength.”
He revealed that he could learn so much from the other swimmers, especially to fight no matter the circumstances are.
“I’ve become fearless,” Hoang said. “Whether I succeed or fail, I learn a lot from my rivals. They are the most influential people in my career.”
From humble to incredible
|Hoang (M) brings home gold at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics. (Photo: VNA) |
Born into a fishing family near the Gianh River in the central province of Quang Binh, Hoang started learning to swim when he was only 3 years old.
His father remembered he would play all day in the water “like a duck” and swimming from one side of the river to the other became part of his daily life. Meanwhile, villagers often called him “otter”, because he was so good at swimming and very dark skinned.
Hoang has conquered a lot of challenges at regional and international events for someone so young.
At last year’s FINA World Championship in Gwangju in the Republic of Korea, he finished the men’s 800 metre freestyle with a time of 7.52.74.
The time met the Olympic Standard A of 7.54.31, but was still short of his personal best of 7.50.20 at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Argentina when he won gold.
Hoang also bagged gold in the men’s 1,500 metres freestyle at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
He later made history in Vietnamese swimming at the 2018 Asian Games, winning one silver and one bronze.
The silver was considered “as valuable as gold” as his older Chinese rival was one of the top swimmers in the world - a three-time Olympic winner and nine-time world champion.
The sky’s the limit
Despite his incredible achievements at such a young age, the swimmer never stops trying to reach further and higher.
He doesn’t put a limit on anything, and the more he works the more he gains.
“To go further, I think we should never be too hard on ourselves,” he said. “Take it easy and focus on the effort.”
All he can do is work hard every day to hone his skills and psychological power - the two decisive factors in winning not only at the Olympic Games.
“Before my races I always encourage myself to stay calm, optimistic, and do my best,” Hoang said. “But I don’t think I have to win all the time. Winning or losing doesn’t matter as much as giving your best.”
“In sport, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But the game goes on,” the athlete concluded with a broad smile on his face.